Ralph Ellison - Invisible Man

Presentation (Handout), 2001

6 Pages, Grade: none



The Quest

I. The departure of the hero

II. The voyage with adventures

III. The heightening of the hero


Ralph Ellison: Invisible Man

The Quest

- can be defined as a voyage with a goal, a “Suchwanderung”.
- the goal is usually a treasured item or one’s own soul.
- 3 major parts: the departure, the voyage with adventures, and the return or the heightening of the hero.
- Invisible Man: the search for identity or for his self.

I. The departure of the hero

The hero parts from his social group

reason: a disharmony within the society he lives in.

Invisible Man: his departure from the hole he lives in or his expulsion from college after which he tries to find himself.

II. The voyage with adventures

The hero undertakes a voyage and has to get through several adventures: fighting monsters and/ or giants, being seduced by beautiful women, being led on the wrong track.

Helpful figures: good spirits who aid him and show him the right track.

The height of adventures: reached in the death struggle or supreme ordeal, where the hero dies a symbolic death. This means that his former self dies, and this death is followed by a spiritual rebirth. à initiation

1. bus trip to New York

fatherly advice by the vet: learn to look beneath the surface (127); play the game, but play it your own way. Learn how it operates, learn how you operate (128); be your own father, young man. And remember, the world is possibility if only you’ll discover it (130).

2. disillusionments: The letters of recommendation from Bledsoe

3. factory episode: The factory represents white American society

the whiteness of American purity is intensified by the mixture of a strictly controlled amount of black

American reality looks different to blacks than it does to whites and that for white Americans blacks are invisible.

4. boiler explosion and factory hospital: dream- or hallucinatory-like experience

hospital machine - “melting pot”, designed to neutralize the sense of racial identity of American blacks

5. Mary Rambo: good spirit

she is “a stable, familiar force like s.th. out of [his] past” (210)

6. eviction of an old couple’s apartment: speech about dispossession

7. the Brotherhood: Brother Jack

a communist party with the ideal of equality

demands total obedience

provides a new identity

has no respect for ethnicity

8. Tod Clifton: Harlem director for youth

representative for the future

later good spirit

sells Sambo dolls (p.347)

shot by a policeman

9. death struggle and symbolic death

IM is hunted by the Brotherhood and by Ras and his men falls into his hole he discovers that he needs light à he starts burning his documents (p.457)

III. The heightening of the hero

free of his former identity, free of the illusion of being visible, IM reaches the state of


The dualism in the Quest-motif

black vs. white, good vs. wrong

Invisible Man: Clifton vs. Brother Jack, Ras vs. IM


Excerpt out of 6 pages


Ralph Ellison - Invisible Man
University of Heidelberg  (Anglistik Seminar)
Upper Seminar Text in Context
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
File size
542 KB
Ralph, Ellison, Invisible, Upper, Seminar, Text, Context
Quote paper
Anke Balduf (Author), 2001, Ralph Ellison - Invisible Man, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/11316


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